Pakistan offers ‘good offices’ to revive Ukraine grain deal

FM Bilawal holds telephone conversation with EU representative as part of Islamabad’s diplomatic efforts

Kamran Yousaf July 25, 2023
According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market. PHOTO: REUTERS


Islamabad on Monday offered its good offices to revive the Ukraine grain deal as it voiced concerns that the expiry of the Black Sea initiative would adversely impact developing countries including Pakistan, which is already under economic pressure.

As part of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari held a telephone conversation with European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Expressing Pakistan’s concerns over the expiry of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), the foreign minister said that the resulting food inflation and food security-related challenges would adversely impact developing countries like Pakistan which were already under economic pressure, according to the statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO).

FM Bilawal said that he had also spoken to his Ukrainian and Turkish counterparts on this subject. He hoped that efforts aimed at reviving the initiative would come to fruition through dialogue and constructive engagement accommodating the concerns of all parties.

The foreign minister requested the EU representative to play his role to help find a solution that would allow the renewal of BSGI, and conveyed Pakistan’s readiness to contribute to collective efforts in that regard.

FM Bilawal and the EU’s representative agreed to remain engaged on the issue and other matters of mutual interest.

Russia pulled out of the deal last week raising fears over global food supplies and scrapping a rare diplomatic breakthrough since Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The deal was brokered by Turkiye and the United Nations in July last year and was hailed as a major breakthrough.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Russia would not renew the pact right now, saying it “has been terminated.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister visited Islamabad this week on a maiden trip and requested Pakistan to play its role in reviving the deal.

FM Bilawal agreed to reach out to the UN Secretary-General and his Turkish and Russian counterparts to ensure the Black Sea initiative is revived at the earliest.

Read more: Pakistan, Ukraine deny arms supply deal amid conflict

On Saturday, as part of that agreement, Bilawal spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and discussed efforts seeking the revival of grain export deal.

He extended Pakistan’s full support to international efforts in reviving the agreement.

The deal allowed Ukraine to export grain by sea, with ships bypassing a Russian blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports and navigating safe passage through the waterway to Turkiye’s Bosphorus Strait in order to reach global markets.

Vessels were inspected before they arrived in Ukraine by Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials, to ensure weapons were not being smuggled into Ukraine.

It proved vital for stabilising global food prices and bringing relief to the developing countries which rely on Ukrainian exports. The impact of the war on global food markets was immediate and extremely painful, especially because Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market.

Read more: Pakistan pushes for Ukraine grain deal revival

It is also a key global player in the market of sunflower oil. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN body, warned at the time that as many as 47 million people could be pushed into “acute food insecurity” because of the war.

Official sources said that Bilawal is expected to speak to his Russian counterpart and the UN Secretary-General on the issue.

Pakistan has maintained a delicate balance in its relationship between Russia and Ukraine since the conflict began. But the visit of Ukrainian FM, the first by any since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1993, was seen as an effort by Pakistan to accommodate the West's concerns.

Bilawal, without condemning the Russian invasion, did express deep concerns over the loss of lives due to the Ukraine conflict. He stressed the need to find a political solution to the problem.


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